Last weekend John and I preached together on the topic of Encouragement from the book of Acts.
AARRGGHH! When we do this he is exceedingly kind and because I’m a planner and he’s a “fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants” guy which freaks me out, he lets me study and write the sermon and then he just naturally does his thing, which is always authentic and conversational and makes everything better.
Anyway, I’ve always thought about encouragement as a good thing, a nice thing…
But as I studied it in the book of Acts I began to see it as a crucial tool that God uses to combat Satan in a spiritual battle that is continually raging. I fear that sounds all hokey/pokey intense and mystical, but think about it…
Satan’s goal is to get us to believe the lies that
we don’t matter,
that God is powerless,
and that we’re all alone.
When we encourage, we remind others of God’s truth – that they do matter, it’s gonna be ok, and they’re not alone.
You can listen, or get more resources here, but what I’ve been thinking about is three things we didn’t say.
1. Discouragement is personal. Not only does Satan lie to discourage, but he is also crafty liar. He tailors his whispers to each of us uniquely. His attacks usually center around our identity. So if we’re tempted to find our worth in being married, he’ll whisper “You’re not lovable. You’re not attractive to anyone.” If we’re tempted to find our worth in accomplishment he may whisper “You’re only a mom, or a secretary, or a barista, or a whatever… You’re not making a difference. You’re not good enough.”
2. Encouragement is personal. The most powerful encouragement is very specific. When someone says, “Nice sermon.” I tend to discount it as just polite small talk. It’s like the difference between “You’re terrific!” and “You have a gift of hospitality that helps people experience the welcoming heart of God. Thank you.”
3. Timing is personal. Never underestimate the power of encouragement used in a timely way by God. Years ago I “randomly” felt prompted to write a guy in another part of the country who had been a mentor in leadership training for me in college. I hadn’t had contact with him in 20 years. I wrote of the impact his modeling had made in my life, specifically how his investment had made a kingdom difference. Little did I know that this was a divinely timed prompting from the Holy Spirit.
I received a response from him saying “Your note came at the absolute lowest point in my life. I had lost perspective. I was in despair, convinced that my ministry hadn’t made any difference, that I had sacrificed for years with no fruit. Your note was the reminder from God that I needed.” Wow. Blew me away!
Be responsive to promptings.
In what situations are you likely to be discouraged? What has been most encouraging to you?